Embrace This Transition
I spent the past weekend with a dancer friend. I watched her dance her competition line-dance solo medley in front of an audience of 600 people who sat spellbound by her performance. It was beautiful to watch, especially since I knew she planned to retire from competitive dancing that year. I don’t know everything fueling her decision, but I suspect she is following her intuition. I also understood the difficulty of her decision to quit, I faced the same decision the year before.
For a solid fifteen years, dance ruled my life. I couldn’t even imagine myself not dancing at least five days a week. All my money funded it, and all my extra time went to lessons and practice. Aside from my children, it was my whole life. I competed for several years and taught dance almost every day. When life threw wrenches at me, I went to the studio and danced alone to relieve the pain. Dance gave me emotional release and a reason to get up another day. How could I ever consider letting it go?
And then one day, out of the blue, I felt something I couldn’t explain pull me away from it. As the feeling continued for a few weeks, and then months, I knew deep down that my passion for dance was fading. It was tough to explain, but the best I can do is to say the compulsion was gone. I began to skip out on social dancing more often and when I danced in what I knew was my last competition, I had to fight back the tears. The end was inevitable.
But who would I be, I thought, without it?
Transitions like these are hard. Losing something we hold dear means we also lose a sense of who we are and where we belong. We won’t go to the same places, see those familiar faces, nor do the things we once loved to do and that can make us feel afraid. And that’s because we attach our identity (how we view ourselves) to things we experience on a regular basis.
I remember giving up coffee and thinking, OMG, what about my collection of coffee mugs? I know that seems silly, but every mug was hand-picked by me for its unique character and I suppose they reflect part of who I am, (or was as a coffee drinker). Drinking water from them just isn’t the same 🙁
If given the choice most of us prefer a concrete definition of who we are, not one that’s always changing. When we’re confident with who we are, decision-making is easier. We know which words and actions support the self we’ve come to know and trust.
But sometimes we cling too tightly to a narrowly defined identity, i.e….who we think we are.
And sometimes that definition doesn’t leave room for us to be more, to reach our highest potential. It’s possible that what you have been doing and being is only a stepping stone to something even greater. If you cling too tightly to how you define yourself, then when life is ready for you to take on new roles, you’ll feel resistance, that feeling of not wanting things to change or end. And that resistance, if we allow it to linger, will cause us a lot of pain. Things that resist the pull of change eventually snap or break. That is a law of nature, for which we aren’t exempt.
On the other hand, acceptance creates flexibility.
In the midst of transition acceptance allows life to show you glimpses of what’s next – a little teaser, if you will. When we feel the call to change, we have to be ready and willing for life to move us in a new direction. When we allow transition, we must bravely face the question, “who am I?” Transitions invite latent, unknown aspects of the self to emerge. It’s going to take time for us to get comfortable with who we are becoming. We have to trust our Self and believe in the big picture we can’t always see.
In middle school, I remember learning that even the Earth is constantly moving and shifting. If something we perceive as permanent as our planet is constantly changing, then why should our lives be any different? Circumstances never stay the same and neither do we. We can’t count on the external world to define us; it’s too unpredictable. It changes constantly. So we must, in the midst of transition, dig deeper to find the fundamental “I am,” the essence of who we are without all the trappings.
Who am I NOW? is a question that evokes freedom.
Personally I feel grateful that my transition away from dance is happening gently and slowly. It could have been more painful if I hadn’t listened to my heart (and body) telling me that something else is waiting for me…something more. I’m grateful for my willingness and ability to acknowledge the greater potential and larger purpose of my life unfolding…even as another part of me fades into the background. I gave up something that meant the world to me. It took awhile for me to understand why, so please be patient with life and the way it rolls.
Tell me about your biggest transitions? What have they meant for you?